First Interstate Bank hosted the Montana High Tech Business Alliance Reception in Missoula for the third year in a row, welcoming more than 130 guests to the sixth floor of their downtown branch on November 15, 2016. First Interstate Bank is a founding member of the Alliance and a strong supporter of Montana’s booming high-tech industry. Missoula Market President Tom Severson, Vice President Sue Larew, and the FIB team provided gourmet hors d’oeuvres and drinks and breathtaking views of Missoula as a backdrop to a night of networking. Photos by Thomas Kurdy, Ndigena.
CONNECT: Investors Fund Growing Montana Companies
2016 was a landmark year for Montana companies connecting with VC and angel investors. Bozeman’s Next Frontier Capital announced the successful closing of its inaugural $20 million fund in June and has funded five Montana companies to date, including Alliance members Centricient in Bozeman, Clearas Water Recovery and Orbital Shift in Missoula. Pictured here are John O’Donnell of AGC in Bozeman, a lender that deploys millions of dollars in growth capital to Montana companies and Liz Marchi, founder of Frontier Fund II in Polson, an angel group that has made seed investments in member firms like Ignite Feedback and CrossTX in Bozeman.
Access to capital has been cited in Alliance surveys as the second largest barrier to growth for member companies (behind finding talent). Check out the Alliances’ list of 50+ Montana Business Financing Resources which was updated for the Missoula CEO Roundtable with assistance from Sue Larew of First Interstate Bank in Missoula and Robert Nystuen of Glacier Bank in Kalispell.
PROMOTE: Lightning Talks Feature LMG Security, Clearas Water Recovery and Orbital Shift
During the reception, Sherri Davidoff spoke about the growth of her cyber security consulting, research and education company, LMG Security. Davidoff graduated from MIT with degrees in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. She wrote the world’s first textbook on Network Forensics and teaches at Black Hat and other industry conferences.
Davidoff founded LMG Security in Missoula in 2008. Her team is up to 25 employees and climbing. LMG is hired by clients to “break into networks and write reports about it.” Demand for services is so high LMG has more requests than the company can handle. According to Davidoff, the biggest challenge in her field is lack of trained staff. “I like to say cyber security actually has a negative unemployment rate,” Davidoff said. “There are probably people that have jobs and shouldn’t.”
Davidoff and LMG Security helped launch the Cyber Security Lab at the University of Montana, training students to fill jobs in this fast-growing field.
Clearas Water Recovery in Missoula is a modern Montana success story. CEO Jordan Lind is a 3rd generation Montanan, the descendant of sugar beet farmers. He earned his MBA at the University of Montana and became a serial entrepreneur and angel investor. Lind now leads a team of co-founders at Clearas, a provider of a patented biological-based wastewater treatment system.
Founded in 2009, Clearas recently closed a $4 million series B round including an investment from Bozeman’s Next Frontier Capital. According to Lind, Clearas has 40 employees and will do about $4 million in revenue this year. Next year they have backlog to take them to $16 million and the year after $27 million.
On Tuesday, Nov. 15, Missoula software-as-a-service company Orbital Shift announced the closing of a $1.25 million Series Seed round led by Next Frontier Capital and followed by Frontier Fund II. Founder and CEO Kevin O’Reilly, pictured at right, spoke at the Alliance reception in the wake of the big announcement.
After graduating from the University of Montana with a Masters of Computer Science and an MBA, O’Reilly launched Orbital Shift in an apartment in 2009. The company relied on early customer feedback to fine tune its products in online workforce management. Today over 40 percent of Orbital Shift users log into the software every single day.
According to O’Reilly, bootstrapping early on helped the company develop resilience and fine-tune its formula for success. “I read Greg [Gianforte’s] book on bootstrapping and took it to heart, O’Reilly said. “As I was seeking capital, I took a lot of arrows because of that. ‘Why did you bootstrap? Why didn’t you just raise capital from the beginning?’ Some of that came from hard lessons and being a serial entrepreneur. I realized I wanted to make sure I knew what I was going to do with that capital before I took money again.”
Orbital Shift recently opened an office in Bozeman. (See the news release and Orbital Shift job postings below.)
ACCELERATE: CEO Roundtable Recommends Task Force to Market Montana Jobs
At the Missoula CEO Roundtable, Dr. Bryce Ward, Associate Director of the UM Bureau of Business and Economic Research, presented new data about the potential pool of candidates for Montana high-tech and manufacturing jobs. According to Ward, Montana has just 1,250 software developers in the current workforce. If Montana’s percentage per capita were the same as the rest of the country, the state would have 4,000 software developers.
Ward also cited a Gallup study that found Montana has the lowest percentage of residents who want to move (13 percent) compared with states like New Jersey and Connecticut where nearly 50 percent of residents want to move. These statistics point to an opportunity for companies to leverage Montana’s high quality of life to fill gaps in our skilled workforce.
Cheryl Behr, Strategic Marketing and Julie Blodgett, HR Business Partner, for Applied Materials, reached out to fellow employers to see if there was interest in investing in a collaborative marketing campaign to promote Montana jobs through the Montana High Tech Business Alliance. Several members volunteered to join a task force to look at the data, choose a focus, and present ideas at the next CEO Roundtable meeting, which will be Feb. 21, 2017 in Bozeman.
2017 High Tech Industry Survey Coming Soon
CEOs at the Missoula Roundtable underscored the value of the Alliance’s high-tech industry reports in providing baseline
data, growth rates, and average wages. They also wondered, ‘with all the growth happening in Montana in 2016, when will we know this year’s data?’ The answer is – next week!
Surveys from BBER will hit inboxes starting the week after Thanksgiving with results released Feb. 21, 2017. Thank you in advance for participating.
High-tech Community Loses Bill Squires, Blackfoot Telecommunications CEO
Blackfoot Telecommunications announced Monday that CEO Bill Squires passed away following a brief illness. He was 54 years old.
Squires oversaw a period of aggressive growth for Blackfoot, doubling revenues from 2009 to 2014 with plans to double revenues again by 2017. The telecommunications cooperative grew to 170 employees, more than $100 million in assets, and a customer base spanning 30 communities in Montana and Idaho.
Bill Squires was a visionary leader in Montana’s high-tech industry and the economic development community, crafting ambitious programs to spur entrepreneurship and bring more high-wage jobs to Montana. He oversaw an upgrade in broadband capacity at Missoula’s MonTEC business incubator to one gigabit per second in 2013 to support high-growth tech startups.
Bill served on the Board of the Missoula Economic Partnership and many other organizations. He was a devoted father, golfer, and Griz fan. He is gone far too soon and his loss is felt deeply by Montana’s high-tech community.
Jason Williams, Blackfoot’s Chief Operating Officer, will take over as interim CEO.
Celebration of Life for Bill Squires will be November 28, 2016, 4 pm.
Bill Squires, Blackfoot Telecom CEO, Dead at 54 (Missoula Current)
Missoula Software Firm Orbital Shift Closes $1.25 Million Round with Next Frontier Capital, Frontier Fund II
(Missoula, MT – Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016) – Orbital Shift, the software company reimagining workforce management for a cloud-based world, announced the closing of a $1.25m round led by Next Frontier Capital and followed by leading angel investors including Montana’s Frontier Fund II.
Orbital Shift is a cloud software application that allows employers to create and maintain staff schedules, control labor costs, enhance staff communication and awareness, and provide online time clock and labor reports. With hundreds of customers, Orbital Shift is a proven leader in meeting the workforce management needs of employers across multiple industries, with 53,864,990 hours recorded to date across 6,965,915 scheduled events.
Click here to read the full press release.
Learn more about the Orbital Shift employee scheduling software here:
Orbital Shift is Now Hiring!
About the Publisher: The Montana High Tech Business Alliance is a statewide membership organization made up of more than 300 high tech and manufacturing firms and affiliates. Search for Montana career opportunities at MTHighTech.org/jobs.